Times are tough for those who dislike change. Two of the most consistent and acclaimed designers working today – womenswear star Phoebe Philo of Céline and menswear star Kim Jones of Louis Vuitton – are on the move. Both have held their positions for a long number of years, rather than a short number of seasons, as is becoming the norm in creative director appointments. Jones had recently celebrated five years at Vuitton. Credit must be paid to what he has achieved during his tenure, both as a master of branding and a master of design. His name is whispered in reverence as a key inspiration amongst young male fashion aficionados who rightly see him as a the man who legitimised sportswear on a high fashion runway and proved that there can be as much innovation and experimentation within the category as there can be within couture. Provoked by the collaborative model of Marc Jacobs, the creative director of Louis Vuitton when Jones was recruited – and, as Jones would credit, the reason the young English designer was given the menswear job in the first place – he began a tradition of bringing subculture and street culture to Vuitton, pre-empting the obsession with high-low collaboration that exists in fashion today. He also taught lessons in loyalty – tirelessly spotlighting and showcasing those who inspired and taught him, from the late great Christopher Nemeth to the irreverent and imaginative Judy Blame to the disruptive James Jebbia of Supreme, with a hook-up that will continue to be a talking point and a branding case study for years to come.
Jones’ final catwalk for Vuitton finely showcased the two things he managed to marry so harmoniously while helming the brand – a dedication to championing easy, sporty garments as the future of menswear, ignoring naysayers who see sportswear as a lesser part of fashion, and, seemingly incongruously, a passion for high drama and intense catwalk theatrics. Jones has done much to rebrand the Vuitton 'travel' DNA into something that feels applicable to the tastes and desires of modern men – he understands the millennial interest in experiences and exclusive 'moments' and wraps that up into his designs. His man is on the move, but in a modern way that often shows up the fusty suited 'renaissance man' rut that some luxury houses are stuck in. For A/W 18, he’d used photographs of Kenya, shot from airplanes, as prints. It nodded to his heritage – though British, Jones was born in Africa – and, amusingly, the amount of time he and other successful men spend in the sky. Look on his Instagram, and you’re regularly faced with shots of Vuitton bags aboard private jets, ready for the next city. He understands that the current Vuitton shopper may travel across continents in the space of 24 hours and has brought this into his designs – hence the reason that fabrics that can be rolled, or the easy, none-crease designs. It’s a less showy aspect of what he does, but important in understanding his ethos.
Showmanship came through in the surfaces and the heavy focus on metallics. Jones enjoys lightly gilding the lily, and this shimmer was appropriate for such a hyped show. It was delightfully silly, and deserving of the standing ovation. It reflected the joy Jones has brought to fashion – the unashamed adoration of a luxury lifestyle, the passion for music and art, the love for celebrity and excitement. Jones is sincere in his interests and that allows one to enjoy the circus of glamour and showmanship. There is no cynicism on his runway, so all the excess is easier to stomach. On taking his bow, he appeared arm in arm with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, who closed his show dressed in monogrammed macs. One couldn’t help but wonder how it would have looked if he’d helmed Vuitton womenswear as well. Maybe that was the point. While the finale will have won the most Instagram coverage, the stand out moment was actually a sweater branded with Peace and Love, using a twist on the LV logo. The optimism summarises Jones tenure. Peace out, Kim Jones.